'High density' not best for Singapore

Straits Times 5 May 13;

I got very nervous when I read last Sunday's article ("Look ahead to 10m people by 2100?"), which quoted former chief planner Liu Thai Ker as suggesting that Singapore might have a population of 10 million people by 2100.

Through my experience of living and working in many cities, including Hong Kong and Shanghai, and in Europe, I do not believe that "high density and a better living environment are mutually compatible".

The top 20 cities in the Mercer Quality of Living Survey are not densely populated.

The key problem for high-density cities is not just the income gap, but also the sharing of limited resources. People often have similar desires and tend to visit the same popular shopping areas and recreation places, live in the same residential areas, and make use of the same health-care and education services, leading to overcrowding.

Singapore is a unique city-state with no natural resources. We should maintain our population at a sustainable level, and grow our economy through focusing on niche, high-value-added jobs and industries, improving our human capital and aiming for higher productivity.

As we progress, it is inevitable that some industries and jobs will move to cheaper places. With political stability, low corruption, good quality of living, attractive tax rates and excellent infrastructure, we can continue to attract multinational corporations to site their Asian regional offices here.

Singapore cannot continue to use the same approach to maintain economic growth. It has to explore how to grow in a more sustainable way.

Calvin Yong Chee Yean

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